Friday, September 17, 2010

Hanging at the bowser on tight arse Wednesday

The fourth Wangle column - click here for the original story.

I worked with an editor in Melbourne for about five years, who apart from wearing socks and sandles had a rather infuriating habit.

Every Wednesday night he’d drive around the foothills of the Dandenong Ranges to find the cheapest petrol, then buy as much as he could while the going was good. I’m talking jerry cans, the works.

Good on him for wanting to save a few dollars to fill up, but what price all the driving around and wear-and-tear on his car?

Let’s not even start about the carbon footprint he was leaving as he stomped around the suburbs in search of that elusive two cent saving.

I’d forgotten about this behaviour until just last week when I pulled into the servo with a flat back tyre and a petrol tank drier than a dead dingo’s proverbial.

I’d left my run to the last gasp and was urging the hail-pocked Mazda onwards to the finish line. If I was a jockey, I’d be using the whip.

But the finish line was blocked. My run had been thwarted by a line of at least 15 cars queuing for petrol.

What in hell’s name was going on here? Were petrol prices about to soar?

As the Mazda farted its empty discontent, it suddenly dawned on me… it was a Wednesday, the cheapest day in the fuel price cycle. These people were lining up as they would do every Wednesday to save themselves a few bob at the bowser.

And indeed it’s true. If you check out the FuelWatch price trend graph, the chart looks like the heart rate of an AFL player who’s been eating the No Doz like Tic Tacs.

But is it worth waiting in line for 30 minutes chewing through the gas to get one over the oil companies? And why does it seem that everyone waits until after 5.00pm to join the line?

Surely the pensioners would be better off buying their petrol during work hours when there’s less traffic and less demand?

When I finally limped up to the bowser, I understood that this was a special club and these people had made the whole tight-arse petrol Wednesday trip into something of a ritual.

People were wandering from car to car for a chat, sharing a joke over a coolant top-up and generally behaving like they were in the crowd at an Andre Riue concert.

One middle aged gent thought a quick buttock grope was in order, while he gathered his betrothed in a ULP embrace. Betrothed? No, not on your nelly. The lucky gropee scampered off shortly after to attend to the diesel pump hanging out of her Patrol.

What was this madness? Had I been consumed by fumes?

Some 40 minutes after first joining that conga-line of price conscious, socially gregarious fuel fanatics, it was time to hit the road.

I looked over to the designated air and water area in hope that I might get a clear run to fill my flaccid Goodyear, but my hopes were cruelly dashed.

From what I could see and hear a bloke called Ted was running a workshop on tyre pressures and the best time of day to achieve the most satisfactory result. I do believe he was even running a tea and coffee service out of his boot.

The point of this rant? The source of my anger? To be honest, I no longer recall.

I’m too busy planning my run for Wednesday arvo and hoping that Ted has some feedback on the best type of lubricant to ease my creaking ball joints.

F*@K OFF! WE'RE FULL (of racists)

The third of my Wangle columns - click here to visit the original story.

Bumper stickers say a lot about the person who drives the car.

For example, the other day I was wandering back to the car from a family event, enjoying the Sunday sunshine with the kids, when something caught my eye.

It was a bumper sticker on the rear of a blown-out SUV that was half blocking the footpath – a map of Australia with the words printed inside, ‘F*** Off, We’re Full!’

It’s a message we’ve all seen many times and it’s nothing new, but on this day Mr 10 noticed it too. He cocked his head to one side, furrowed his brow, and asked me, “Are people allowed to have the F word on the backs of their cars?”

I responded, “Only very small minded nuff-nuffs son. People who are proud to put their hands up and say I’m a racist – check me out.”

In a flash I’d made an addition to the message thanks to the dust that covered the back window. The message now read, ‘F*** Off We’re Full – of Racist Pricks Like Me!’ If it was your car, I’m sorry. Sorry I didn’t let your tyres down while I was at it.

The saddest thing about this encounter wasn’t having to explain to my son that some people feel threatened by people of non anglo-saxon origin coming to our country. It was knowing that this was a family vehicle and all the occupants, right down to the toddler in the booster seat, would be tainted by this attitude in some way.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m all for free speech. I had a chuckle at a sticker on a ute this morning that read, ‘Cheer up Emo Kids!’ I winced at the ‘I Fish With a Stiff Rod!’ sticker and was bemused as to why you’d advertise the fact that you’re a big Bundy drinker, but I wasn’t offended.

Not so with the ‘FOWF’ sticker. I don’t appreciate my kids having to read this sort of crap on the backs of your cars, on t-shirts, caps or novelty boxer shorts.

Knock yourself out when you’re at your own dinner table or down the pub with your like-minded mates, but sharing the message in public is just dumb. And offensive. What, you think we’re gonna come up and shake your hand, maybe make you PM for a day so you can turn back the boats single-handedly armed with nothing but a pointy white hood?

No, most of us just cringe, shake our heads and hope our kids don’t see it. Peel them off, please.

Digging up the grass

This is the second of my Wangle posts - click here for the original yarn.

Okay, I opened a can of worms by reintroducing the daylight saving debate, so why not go the double by suggesting we dig up Perth’s front lawn?

I might just point out before you start with the ‘if you don’t like it, leave’ mantra, that I was born in Perth, my parents were born here and so were their parents. We’ve all had close connections with the Swan River throughout our lives and I’d be the first one to say it makes Melbourne’s Yarra seem like a roadside drainage ditch in comparison.

But like many West Australians, I think the city would be a far more appealing place to visit when we have a greater range of amenities along the waterfront. At present we have a Bell Tower, The Lucky Shag and a bloody great big, underutilised front lawn.

Now, the idea of a ferris wheel on the Swan never really floated my ferry, but then it wasn’t really about a ferris wheel was it? It could have been a giant model of a dog poo and still made the same point… the Perth foreshore is boring and is crying out for more than just beer and bells. Hardly anyone ever uses all that ‘beautiful, wide open space’ as I once heard it described.

No, the ferris wheel was all about plonking something large and distracting into an area that is grossly underutilised in order to make people sit up and think, ‘okay, if we’ve got room to install an oversized fairground attraction, maybe we could so something even better in that space?’

You see, us Perthites suffer from a rare and degenerative condition known as ‘Lawnus-idioticus’… in common terms, a desperate need to install large tracts of lawn at the front of our homes that run from the front door to the road and are rarely used except for parking.

Take a run through leafy Floreat or Wembley one day and you’ll get the picture. These days the disease is on the wane, but only because developers are cramming as many dwellings as possible on what were once single home blocks.

So what’s this got to do with Perth City?

Well, just as our suburbs were infected with this disease, so was the city itself. All that parkland stretching from the front door mat of our city, right down to Riverside Drive and beyond, to meet the uninspiring limestone retaining wall on the river’s edge, are our city’s very own front lawn.

Sure, a few office workers wander down there to eat lunch and there’s a few games of softball hosted over the weekend, but tell me, when was the last time you made use of the city’s front lawn? Did you stand there on Australia Day, draped in the Aussie flag, tapping your toes to “You’re the Voice” while you watched the fireworks?

Our city waterfront needs a makeover and I very much hope that plans currently on the table will do our city and the Swan River the justice they deserve after many years of neglect. Sure, we have one of the world’s best views from Kings Park, but it’s only a view. How long can you stand there looking at the Perth city skyline before you think, ‘oh well, back to the suburbs, there’s the lawn to be watered…’

There are plenty of good things happening in the City of Perth and Lisa Scaffidi is a powerful force of change who should be applauded for her work.

But now that the ferris wheel is rolling-on to some other destination in need of a landmark, let’s give up our grass habit, get a bit creative and dig up the front lawn once and for all.

Thanks for nothing folks!

Apologies for being such a poor correspondent, but of late I've been sharing my ideas, thoughts and feelings with the good people at Wangle.

Here's the first of those posts and you can check out the original story by clicking here.

These dark winter mornings and watching the miserable light fading from my workplace window at 5.00pm of late has put me back into a funk about the fate of daylight saving in Western Australia.

After 11 years enjoying daylight saving while living in Melbourne, I returned to Perth with my young family just in time to see DLS re-introduced and then cruelly snatched back from my grasp three short years later.

Yes Perth, you Indian givers, you have decreed that daylight saving is officially dead in the water in WA for the forseeable future. I now hear there are plans afoot to bring back roster petrol stations.

WA, one hour and 57 years behind the rest of Australia. Would the last person to leave Perth please turn out the lights? Were they ever on?

But it’s okay, this summer I’ll be bringing the kids around when they wake up at 4.45am every day and we’ll have a nice play on your front lawn. At about the same time that every species of bird gathers outside my bedroom window for a good chat about how dandy it is to see the sun up so early.

All I wanted was a bit of time in the afternoons to get out of the house with the kids when I came home from work… maybe a barbie, go to the beach, or kick the footy. But no, you lot wouldn’t have that.

According to you, normal people should be eating dinner by 5.30pm and tucked up in bed with Fat Cat before the hour reaches double digits.

I’m mad as hell. While you early morning dog walkers, tradies and sports enthusiasts are no doubt salivating about the prospect of blazing sunlight at 5.00am, think about those of us with small children who have no good use of the morning hours.

Thanks for nothing folks and keep an eye out for me this summer – I’ll be the one driving around honking his horn at the first sign of daylight, making sure you ‘NO’ voters really are awake to enjoy this most ‘precious’ time of the day.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s plenty to love about living in Perth. It was my decision to return from Melbourne and choose this city as the place to raise my kids, but do we really have to endure this ‘if it aint broke, don’t fix it’ mentality forever?

Fair suck of the sauce bottle people!

Monday, May 10, 2010

A WAAPA of a night at Crackerjack's

The North Fremantle Centre's Crackerjack’s Comedy Club will be awash with guffaws and a cacaphony of chortling as it plays host to an evening of comedy from the WA Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA).

WAAPA's third year actors will be putting their improvisational skills to the test on Saturday 22 May with their inaugural 'Impro Comedy Night'.

The 17 young actors, hailing from all over Australia and all graduating later this year, will provide the audience with a unique opportunity to see Australia’s stars of tomorrow before they take off to pursue their artistic careers in Australia and overseas.

Leading local comedian and 2009 National Theatre Sports Champion, Glenn Hall, has been working with the students this year on the skills and secrets of improvised comedy.

And this is what they promise...

The actors, inspired by suggestions from the audience and facilitated by Glenn, will create incredible characters and perform outrageous sketches with only seconds to prepare and with hilarious outcomes!

The laughter is, of course, for a cause. The students are fundraising towards the production of a DVD demonstrating their film acting to be used as an example of their finely honed craft and talents when seeking employment in the entertainment industry.

So get a gang together, come on down and join in the fun, laugh a lot and prepare to be impressed – very impressed!

Tickets can be purchased on the door and Crackerjack’s can be found between Thompson Rd and Stirling Hwy in North Fremantle. If you reach the Swan River you've gone too far. And you'll be wet.

Ronald McDonald House search begins

Nationwide search for the faces of Ronald McDonald House begins
Help connect the House with people from the past

Ronald McDonald House (RMH) Perth has launched a national search for people whose lives have been touched by its work providing Western Australian families with a place to stay while their children receive treatment for a serious illness.

In its 20th Birthday year, the charity is seeking to contact as many as possible of the 3,000 families who have called RMH home at some stage since its inception in 1990. The house would also love to hear from the countless staff and volunteers who have contributed to making the house a home for so many people over the years.

Their stories – from the heartbreakingly sad to the joyously happy - will be recorded for a visual history of RMH as part of its Birthday celebrations in November this year.

Executive Officer Alison Salmond said thousands of people from all walks of life had experienced the unique love and support provided by RMH over the past two decades and they could now be living anywhere in Australia.

“We are putting the call out to the community to help us find the children and families we have known over the years,” she said.

“We want to know what the families are doing now and what it meant to have a place like RMH to stay during the days and months while their child was undergoing gruelling treatment.

“We also want to get back in touch with the staff and volunteers who have cooked, cleaned, provided fun and entertainment, and, most importantly, been a shoulder to cry on when families have found life to be extraordinarily tough and unpredictable.”

Ms Salmond said bringing together 20 years of personal stories will be a huge task, “but challenges are nothing new to RMH”.

“We have jumped over some pretty big hurdles over the years and resilience is definitely one of our hallmarks,” she said.

Should you be able to help the House in their mission to reunite the faces of the House, please contact Kellie Hanna at Ronald McDonald House Perth on 08 9346 9002 or by Monday 31 May.

Friday, April 09, 2010

A Kick-Ass success, or just bad taste?

It would seem that director MATTHEW VAUGHN's latest film Kick-Ass has polarised the community thanks to a foul mouthed, ultra violent (but very cute!) 11-year-old character, Hit Girl (CHLOE GRACE MORTEZ).

Thanks to Universal Pictures, I was able to organise two screenings for the Perth Twitter Community via the Perth Twitter Underground Brigade (@PTUB) and judging from the tweets that came flying back faster than a Hit Girl throwing star, young Chloe was the genuine star of the film.

Indeed, 'when I grow up I wanna be Hit Girl' was a comment I saw time and time again. You can check out the online chatter yourself here.

Last night on ABC TV's At The Movies, David Stratton made all the right noises about Kick-Ass in the first half of his review, but choked on the (throwing?) star rating when it came to the Hit Girl stumbling block:

"The screenplay has some sharp comments to make about the meaning of heroics, and MATTHEW VAUGHN, who started out working with Guy Ritchie and who previously made LAYER CAKE and STARDUST, handles it all with confidence. But you have to keep reminding yourself that it's 'only a movie' every time Hit Girl does her stuff- mega-violent action scenes of multiple killings obviously inspired by the early films of John Woo, starring CHOW YUN FAT (Woo is specifically referenced in the dialogue). These scenes are deliberately over-the-top and incredibly violent and the fact that an 11-year-old is doing the killing - shooting and stabbing bad guys - all of whom die very bloodily - will be understandably concerning for many." (from the At The Movies website)

If you haven't seen it already, check out what it without doubt one of the most entertaining exchanges between David and Margaret in some time. David: 'Can I just say something?' Margaret: 'No'.

Judging from the comments on the At The Movies web page, people are split into two camps - those horrified to see an on-screen depiction of an 11-year-old girl dropping the 'C' bomb and taking off baddies' heads with a machete, and those who see it as one of the most refreshingly stylised superhero films to come out of the US in many years.

Make no mistake, I'm a father of three and I have no desire to see my five-year-old princess grow up to blow the backs out of people's heads with a high calibre glock. But nor am I going to take her out to an urban wasteland to fire rounds into her bullet proof vest protected chest to acclimatise her to what might happen when she's mugged by junkies and pimps, aka NICOLAS CAGE who plays her father and fellow superhero, Big Daddy.

But this is an adaptation of a COMIC BOOK. Complete fantasy. It's a vehicle for delivering an outrageously funny superhero flick using characters and scenarios that challenge - no, DEMAND us - to see things in a different light.

Indeed, while some would say that embracing a blood drenched film that uses an 11-year-old girl as a central character is a sign of how desensitised we are as a community, I'd argue the opposite.

Once you scrape away the gore and think about this film for what it really is - a comic book fantasy - I think Kick-Ass actually asks the question why is one form of violence more acceptable than another? Does it really matter if a Rastafarian drug lord is disemboweled by a cute 11-year-old masked girl, or shot through the temple by a rogue middle aged cop?

Park your conservatism at the candy bar, grease-up the bazooka and strap yourself in for some rollicking Kick-Ass superhero fun. Just leave your little princess at home :)

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Random Top 10 Twitter Twips

Someone asked me to put together what must be one of the 38 million lists of top ten tips for Twitter that exist in the ether... so I did.

Keep in mind that this is a list of tips for people in the communications game, but I think some of the points are fairly unanimously accepted across the twitterverse.

Main point being, don't spam my assss, or you will be doomed to #Fail.

@freocookster presents the Top 10 Twitter Twips:

1. The first step on the path to having any influence on twitter is to build a strong network of followers and to interact with this group on a regular basis.

2. Don't soil your twitter nest by rushing in with the hard sell and posting up links to your latest press release - you will only confirm your status as a spam merchant.

3. Be interesting and in turn show interest in what others in your network are saying - re-tweet and share information on a regular basis.

4. Don't be tempted to follow everyone in the twitterverse in a quick fix attempt to build your network - befriending random strangers doesn't work in real life and it won't work online.

5. Be patient, remain engaging and the right people will follow you in time.

6. You don't have to follow everyone who follows you, and be super wary of opening links preceded by comments like, "Hey, I saw this pic of you and thought you should see it!"

7. It's okay to be a brand advocate and to share an opinion or response, but refrain from turning yourself into an online ad - it's boring and unlikely to have any cut through anyway.

8. If you want your followers to engage with your brand - or your client's brand - do it in a fun way that makes it a tangible experience for all. Free stuff is always good!

9. If you are in the communications industry, always be up-front about representing your client's interest and be careful about the battles you pick.

10. Remember, without a good network of followers who you engage with on a regular basis, your tweets will fall on deaf ears... be a part of the conversation!

*Thanks to Dom O'Leary for the birdie pic :)